Tin soldiers.

Thursday, May 28th, 2020

I started this month with a remembrance of the National Guard shooting college students at Kent State and Jackson State in May of 1970, a half-century ago.

We sat tonight in the waning days of May and watched protest and anger in Minneapolis continue to boil over in the wake of the violent murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. The familiar tools of crowd control from the 1970s—tear gas—were accompanied by the more modern ‘flash bangs‘ that, although not lethal, can injure those nearby.

This series of protests, some nonviolent and organized, some a painful overlay of chaos and property destruction, played out on live cable news since Tuesday night.

We also saw vivid reporting from the scene that emerged from a single handheld iPhone (a Minnesota Public Radio reporter talking with Rachel Maddow, a very effective interview) as well as from MSNBC’s Ali Velshi, there with a photographer and a producer, and a gas mask at the ready.

Amidst all of this, Maddow talked with the mayor of Minneapolis and the Attorney General of Minnesota.

The interviews served to put this one incident in a context of a policing system that hasn’t worked for black victims of white cops almost anywhere in the past, and, the protestors fear, the system’s failure will repeat itself as the Hennepin county attorney, Mike Freeman, asks for “patience and calm” in the face of a furor that wants the officers involved charged right now. He wants slow. They want swift justice.

And to add to the complexity, Freeman’s immediate predecessor was US Senator Amy Klobuchar. The Star-Tribune reports:

Derek Chauvin, the officer involved in Floyd’s death, was involved in the death of another citizen while Klobuchar was prosecutor. Chauvin was one of six officers who fired on and killed Wayne Reyes in 2006 after Reyes reportedly aimed a shotgun at police after stabbing his friend and girlfriend. While the death happened during Klobuchar’s tenure at the helm of the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, the case did not go to a grand jury until after she left the office and became a senator.

That doesn’t add up to blaming the senator for Floyd’s killing (although some on Twitter are trying to do exactly that), but it does show that simply being a “tough law-and-order prosecutor” doesn’t mean that justice is being done in these cases across race and class.

There are a lot of systemic threads to unravel until Minneapolis can have a quiet night’s sleep. The work on a messed up system that will allow African Americans to sleep, live, and work peacefully as citizens in every sense will take a while, but it feels like, amidst a pandemic and a crazy executive branch, foundational change may be happening.